2010 Census: More grandparents raising grandchildren in Oklahoma
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2012
1/26/12 at 7:13 AM
To usher in 2012, Janet Hancock decided just to be grandma on New Year's Eve.
She had all five of her grandchildren spend the night at her house so they could stay up late and play their homemade version of the TV game show "Minute to Win it."
They marched up and down the street banging pots and pans at midnight. They ate ice cream for breakfast.
But Jan. 1 arrived and it was back to reality - raising three of those five grandsons on her own at age 54.
There are more than 100,000 children in Oklahoma living in homes where the householders are grandparents or relatives other than parents, according to 2010 Census data. Of those, nearly half live in homes where the grandparents are primarily responsible for their care, and almost 20,000 have no parents present in the home, according to Census data.
When Hancock can spare the time, she attends a twice-a-month support group meeting for grandparents raising grandchildren held in a classroom at Asbury United Methodist Church. At a recent meeting, every grandparent in attendance had custody of their grandchildren due to an adult child's drug addiction.
For now, Hancock has guardianship of her youngest daughter's son because of health issues. But Hancock's relationship with her oldest daughter - whose two sons Hancock has cared for since 2008 - is a fractured trail of court records documenting problems with domestic violence and drug use,
It wasn't always that way. But she made choices that Hancock couldn't support, decisions that eroded trust and put her grandchildren in danger.
About four years ago, Hancock got a call from her oldest daughter: She and her husband were living in a car and had no place to go, they said. Would Hancock take the boys for them? Noah and Jacob were only 2 and 4 years old and homeless.
"We were estranged at the time and I hadn't seen her or the kids in more than a year at this point," Hancock said. "She always had options that she could live with me - if they would change their lifestyle. But she recognized that she was unable to take care of them and asked me to take them until she could get her life together."
The boys haven't seen their mother in more than two years, and it's been more than a year since Hancock or the boys have talked to her on the phone, she said. There have been court dates and custody hearings, but Hancock and her attorney are the only ones who show up, she said. Hancock is considering adoption.
"(My daughter) has made the choices that have put her in this situation, and it breaks my heart - I feel the pain in the kids' hearts," Hancock said. "I can't replace a mother's love - it's never going to be the same."
But Nana Mom, as the boys call her, is there for her grandsons every day. She helps with their homework, carts them to baseball and swimming and tries to summon the energy for keeping up with three young boys while working full time.
"It hurts me that I'm not able to spend time just as a grandma," she said. She regrets that raising her grandsons leaves her with less time to be a grandmother to her son's children who live nearby.
The financial strain is tough, she said. She had to start over when the boys came to live with her - she didn't have beds or diapers for them. Their questions are even harder, she said.
"It's kind of hard to explain to a 2- and 3-year-old why their mother or father isn't there," she said. "I tell them they made bad choices and we hope they change their life someday. A lot of it is the questions they ask that you don't have answers for."
Hancock knows she can't fix her daughter. All she can do is love her grandchildren and try to fill the void their parents' absence leaves, she said.
"These days will never be gotten back, and there's so many things (their parents) have missed," she said.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group
Meets first and third Tuesday of each month, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
(Childcare provided at no charge)
Asbury United Methodist Church, 6767 S. Mingo Road
Info: Contact Sandie Sullivan, 918-592-8421
Attorney Tiffany Campbell doesn't need the Census data to show her the number of families with grandparents raising grandchildren is increasing.
She sees it frequently in her work at Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson, L.L.P., where she specializes in family law.
Often, grandparents will work with her to attain custody or temporary guardianship of their grandchildren as a means of getting their adult children into substance abuse treatment programs, she said.
"It's not the easiest situation for a grandparent or anybody," Campbell said.
Courts will then require the parent to show "permanent, material and substantial" change in circumstances before returning the children to their parents' custody, she said.
By the numbers
Original Print Headline: Grandparents fill gap
- In Oklahoma, 100,213 children under age 18 live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives (10.8 percent of the children in the state.)
- Number of grandchildren under 18 years living with a grandparent householder in Oklahoma in 2010: 79,580 (8.6 percent of the state's children)
- Percent breakdown by age: under 3 years, 26.8 percent; 3 and 4 years, 13.5 percent; 5 years, 6.1 percent; 6 to 11 years, 30.5 percent; 12 to 17 years, 23.1 percent.
- Number of grandchildren under 18 years living with a grandparent householder in Tulsa County in 2010: 10,434
- Number and percent of households in Oklahoma in 2010 that have three or more generations living in residence: 53,879, 3.7 percent of households Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Janet Hancock (right) talks with her grandson Noah as they watch Noah's brother participate in a pre-game drill at the Harlem Globetrotters game at the BOK Center. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World
Janet Hancock waits with her grandsons Jacob and Noah for photos at the Harlem Globetrotters game at the BOK Center. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World
Janet Hancock watches her grandson, Noah, dribble a ball at a Harlem Globetrotters game at the BOK Center on Saturday. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World